H-2A, Health & Safety, Migrant & Seasonal Workers

Farm Worker Outreach in 18th Year

From MoultrieObserver.com, Adelia Ladson, The Moultrie Observer, 18 Jun 2011.

MOULTRIE [GA] — Since 1993, Dr. Judy Wold, director of the Farm Worker Family Health Program from the Emory School of Nursing, and her team have made the trip down to Moultrie in the summer to spend two weeks servicing the local migrant population.

“It is service to the community and certainly the students benefit from this experience. It is a life-changing experience,” she said.

The team includes about 90 faculty members, nurse practitioners, physical therapy students, pharmacy students and dental students plus personnel from the Ellenton Clinic, volunteers and researchers, who will be here until June 24.

“Social responsibility is one of the missions of the Emory School of Nursing and that pretty much goes for the other schools at Emory,” she said.

She said most of the students who participate in the program don’t realize where their food comes from or how their food gets to them, so it’s definitely a learning experience for them.

She said the long-standing partnership with the community has allowed them to engender trust in the community. The local partners for this program include Colquitt County Schools, the Ellenton Clinic, the Health Department and the Health District and local churches, she added.

“We probably see between 600 and 800 people. Half of them are children and half of them are farm workers,” she said.

She said the bulk of the children were seen at Cox Elementary School, during the morning, through the summer school program. The team screens the children for vision, hearing, blood pressure, height, weight and body mass index, and hemoglobin, which is a test for anemia.

“Then, they get a complete physical,” she said.

She also said that gross and fine motor skills development is tested through physical therapy.

“Everyone gets a dental check,” she added.

She said some of their patients get a sealant put over their permanent teeth and they have seen the success of that treatment over the years.

She said that if there is a problem found, the patients are referred to the Ellenton Clinic.

“So there is a source for referral,” she continued.

She said that dental problems have been one of the larger problems in this population in both children and adults. She said that a local dentist would be joining them to pull teeth, if necessary. She added that dental problems affect the overall health of an individual.

The age range of the children who are seen is 3 to 14 and Wold said it was possible for them to see the same child year after year. She said the Ellenton Clinic keeps the children’s records, which they send out ever year. Before the team arrives, a permission slip is sent out to the parents for their child to be seen and the records to be released to the nurse practitioners.

“Most of the faculty we have here, have been coming here for years. So, they know how it works. We try to improve how we do things every year,” she said.

She said the Farm Worker Family Health Program is done every year without grants. Faculty and students pay for their expenses and the university picks up some of the hotel bill. She added that Emory University found the program to be very important so they supported it year after year. She said Emory directs the program but it is a partnership of several universities including Georgia State University Department of Physical Therapy and Department of Psychology, the University of Georgia School of Pharmacy, Clayton State Dental Hygiene Program, Darton College Dental Hygiene Program and West Georgia Tech. Dental Hygiene Program. She said the nurse practitioners practice under Dr. Jacqueline Grant, who is the health officer for the district.

“This is a hand-picked group. Students must apply for this program,” she said of her team.

She said some of these students had been in the Peace Corps and her team was comprised of students who were interested in reaching vulnerable populations.

“Pretty much all of Georgia is medically underserved. Most counties are underserved,” Wold said. “And the farm workers are the most vulnerable population in the state.”

She said Ellenton Clinic is in charge of Colquitt, Tift, Brooks and Cook Counties. She said her team, however, goes out to the farms in Colquitt County and a few in Tift County.

“We go out to different farms every night,” she said.

She said that they set-up their “camp” using the Ellenton Clinic’s vans to carry all of their equipment.

“We are generally out at the camp until midnight and then back at the school at 8 a.m.,” she added.

She said most of the farms they go to are H2A and then, they have gone to some residential areas like Circle Road.

“Where there’s a great deal of need. … Anybody who comes, we see them,” Wold continued.

She said for the adults, they screen for blood pressure, body mass index, glucose and anemia, height and weight, foot care, episodic care and do a dental check-up.

“Everybody gets a hygiene kit,” she said.

She said they have a volunteer coordinator who collects items for the kits before they start the program each year and volunteers put them together.

She said that referrals were also made for the adults, if needed.

Wold said that they also bring donated clothes to the camp, and, if they go to residential areas they bring small toys for the children.

She said they didn’t see many women at the camps because they didn’t generally work out at the farms. She said they usually worked on the packing lines.

Wold said the biggest complaints among the workers was back pain and sprains, foot fungus and skin problems. She said they did a lot of education with their patients about correct lifting and gave out a lot of ibuprofen and muscle rub. She said they also gave out foot care products.

She added that Emory Healthcare was also very supportive of the program and the hospital gave her water bottles and towels to give to the farm workers.

“Most of these people would never get seen,” Wold said.

She said, when the summer school program winds down, the team will contact Kiddie Kastle, the migrant Head Start program, and see if they can provide service for those children.

There are ways the community-at-large can get involved with the Farm Worker Family Health Program and some churches have already participated by providing lunch to the team.

Wold and her team don’t usually get a chance to eat supper since they are out at the farms by 6 p.m. She said the students just bring snacks for their evening meal and the Junior Women’s Club had provided some of those. She also added that a church did make sack lunches for them one evening to take with them to the camp and this might be a good way a church or organization could assist them.

“We would always accept donations for the defrayment of cost of the hotel rooms,” she added.

She said that the Hampton Inn, where they were staying, did give them a discount on the rooms.

Wold also said that they would accept donations of items like long-sleeved shirts for the farm workers or items for the hygiene kits like razors, soap, socks, nail files and clippers. She said they could also use over the counter medications like ibuprofen, foot powder, antifungals and eye drops. She said the donation of items could be coordinated through her for next year’s visit. She can be reached at her office at the university, throughout the year, at 404-727-3130.

“In all of this, Cindy Hernandez is the champion for this population. She is the director of the Ellenton Clinic and she is so knowledgeable about what’s going on,” said Wold.

Source: MoultrieObserver.com, “Farm worker outreach in 18th year” by Adelia Ladson, The Moultrie Observer, 18 Jun 2011.

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